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Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose at Theatre Royal Brighton

Reginald Rose served in the US Army in World War Two before becoming a screenwriter for fledging CBS Television. In 1954 he struck gold when he penned Twelve Angry Men, and, although he went on to write much more, it is for this that he is remembered. It was filmed in 1957 with Henry Fonda as “Juror 8” before appearing as a stage play in 1964.

12 Angry Men Cast

In an over-heated jury room, twelve all-male jurors debate whether or not a teenager is guilty of stabbing to death his abusive father. In fact, one of the most successful features of this staging is Michael Pavelka’s design, which immediately convinces us of the extreme weather, lack of air-conditioning and claustrophobic nature of the play. Look out for the revolving stage! The atmosphere inside that room feels very heavy, as is Rose’s intention. The play itself, although nearly sixty years old, wears its age lightly; Rose adds some unexpected humour into the proceedings and knows how to structure the piece so that the pace, volume and action varies throughout and gradually draws us in.

The real problem is the character of the virtuous architect, the afore-mentioned Juror 8 (Patrick Dufffy) who, alone amongst the group of jurors, refuses to automatically render a verdict of GUILTY. In his original review of the film, David Thomson wrote that he was “the saint come down from Heaven to be amongst ordinary, sweaty men” – perhaps too good to be believable? Christopher Haydon, the director, has him dressed in a pale-coloured suit, standing stock-still, upstage, looking out of a window until just after his first line, and even after that Duffy has often clearly been instructed to stand downstage, but looking upstage so that we rarely seem to see his face – enigmatic is the word to describe how we are supposed to see this role.

The production benefits from a generally strong ensemble cast of thirteen – all male. Paul Beech impresses as Juror 9, succeeding in gradually building a subtle three-dimensional character, often by the way he reacts to what is going on around him rather than by what he says. Samarge Hamilton also develops a believable role, especially when he demonstrates his knowledge of how to stab another human being

Mark Heenehan is particularly strong in role, not only because of his height and bearing, but because of the clarity and power of his enunciation – he imbues Juror 4 with dignity and strength of purpose.

Gray O’Brien (Juror 10) is quite frightening when he begins ranting, showing how bigoted he is and Tristan Gemmill is very strong as Juror 3, until the very end – but I won’t spoil the plot for those who don’t know it!

First-rate lighting design by Chris Davey adds to the perceived stuffiness of the jury room. It is a shame that the sound design (Andy Graham) isn’t better able to amplify Patrick Duffy’s voice which is at a much lower volume level than the non-amplified voices of the remainder of the cast.

The audience at Theatre Royal Brighton, obviously enjoyed this play, as I did, giving it a spontaneous standing ovation! If you did not see this Bill Kenwright production in London’s West End, it is well worth the trip to Brighton this week!

4 stars

Review by John Groves

This stage adaptation of the classic title stars Patrick Duffy (Man from Atlantis, Dallas), Tristan Gemmill (Coronation Street, Casualty), Michael Greco (EastEnders), Ben Nealon (Soldier Soldier), Gary Webster (Minder, Family Affairs) and Gray O’Brien (Coronation Street, Peak Practice) – now completing the cast are Paul Beech, Samarge Hamilton, Jeffrey Harmer, Mark Heenehan, Kenneth Jay, Paul Lavers, and Owen Oldroyd.

Twelve Angry Men is at Theatre Royal Brighton from Monday 20th November, 2023 to Saturday 25th November, 2023.

View all shows booking now at Theatre Royal Brighton.

Richmond Theatre
Mon 5 Feb – Sat 10 Feb 2024

Milton Keynes Theatre
Mon 12 Feb – Sat 17 Feb 2024

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Author

  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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1 thought on “Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose at Theatre Royal Brighton”

  1. WILLIAM & PENNY LEFEBVE

    The original 1957 film, starring and produced by the great HENRY FONDA, remains THE GREATEST cinematic performance on celluloid that I have ever seen in my life….I am now fast approaching 78 years of age.

    My wife and I attended the matinee performance of TWELVE ANGRY MEN at the THEATRE ROYAL, BRIGHTON today, and were left totally stunned, overwhelmed, amazed, impressed, overawed, dazzled and excited by every aspect of what we witnessed.

    The casting was outstanding, and we appreciated that the dialogue remained exactly as it was 66 years ago. What a hard task for TRISTAN GEMMILL to emulate that hard man colossus LEE J COBB as JUROR 3, but he receives a maximum score from us for his totally convincing performance. All the other ELEVEN get similar ratings!

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